Our Explore More Series is a series of interviews with current world travelers. We find out what inspires and motivates travelers to continue traveling. Our interviewees are all currently “on the road” for the long haul, which can mean they’re actually chasing pavement by vehicle or they could be jet setters flying to each new destination. While these interviews are to help set our own travel plans in motion, we also hope they will help readers and wannabee travelers realize that long term travel is easier than they might think!
With our second “Explore More” series we say hello to RideDOT.com. This pair is fully responsible for sparking our curiosity in long term RTW travel. We had been trying to meet up with these two for a couple of years but they lived across the country from us so meeting was a proving to be a challenge. Finally the stars aligned, our Saturday night plans were suddenly cancelled and ironically Gene and Neda were in town. We jumped at the chance to meet the only other people we knew that took month long motorcycle adventures around the world like us. They were, after all, in town on their motorcycles so how could we refuse! Shortly into our meeting, we asked if they were in Calgary because they were riding across Canada for their month long motorcycle adventure that year. They both had the same devilish grin, like the cat that ate the canary, they looked at each other and Neda said “do you want to tell them?”. Immediately our minds raced, tell us what? What could cause such a look? A most awesome adventure, that’s what! Suddenly we became aware that there were people in this world that actually sold all their most prized possessions, quit their jobs, and traveled! It wasn’t just some fantasy, some dream that people wish their lives away for, it was real!
Who is RideDOT.com anyway?
RideDOT.com is Neda and Gene! We’re a bit fanatical about motorcycle travel. So much so that we quit our jobs, sold our home and all our possessions, and now we’re riding around the world!
We left in June 2012 and rode east till the shores of Newfoundland met the Atlantic, then we turned around and rode west till there wasn’t any British Colombia left to ride. So we went north until Alaska ended at the Arctic Ocean, at which point we headed south through the US, bounced around Mexico and several Central American countries until the road stopped at something called the Darien Gap in Panama.
Somehow we found ourselves on a slow boat to Cuba, where we spent a month riding around the island trying to find a way off “Castro’s Paradise”. We eventually escaped back to Mexico and Central America where we found the right boat to take us to South America. And that’s where we’ve been bumping around for the last 4 months. *phew!*
We’re basically the motorcycle equivalent of a Roomba, clearing a drunken path all over the Americas! (If you don’t know what a Roomba is, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLt5rBfNucc)
Has traveling always been a part of your life?
Neda: My parents loved taking my sister and me on ski trips every winter to the Slovenian Alps. When I was older, my dad and I joined a mountaineering club which organized multi-day hikes through Croatia and Slovenia. I believe those family trips planted the seeds of wanderlust in me.
When Gene and I met, we started taking weekend trips almost immediately, and then later we’d spend 2-3 weeks motorcycling somewhere exotic for our annual vacations. Snowboarding road trips in the winter and motorcycle wanderings in the summer!
Gene: I was born in England, lived in Malaysia, visited my grandparents in South Africa and moved to Canada all before the age of 9 After that, I started taking travel a bit more seriously…
What inspired a long term RTW trip?
Gene: We saw Ob-E-Wan Kenobi do it on TV and it looked super-fun! We actually had the same experiences that they had: we called KTM up and asked them to sponsor us and they said no. So we called BMW instead. They also said no. So we ended up paying for BMW motorcycles out of our own pocket. Okay, so maybe not entirely like Ob-E-Wan… *See footnote
Actually, at the conclusion of our month-long motorcycle vacation through Western Europe, we were in Munich airport crating our bikes to be shipped back to Canada when we met another motorcyclist who was busy un-crating his bike. He told us he had just completed a 9-month journey from Argentina to Alaska and was now riding back to his home in the UK.
At the time we felt that our 32-day trip was the ultimate in Epic Liberation! But 9 months?! We were flabbergasted! So you didn’t have to be rich British actors who were sponsored by large Bavarian motorcycle companies to do this kind of thing? That set the hamsters running overtime in our little wheels upstairs.
It was only the crushing depression of mundane life, sitting at our sterile desks at work the next day that solidified the decision to do this trip. This was back in 2007, so it only took 5 years of scheming to actually make it happen…
You’re traveling RTW on motorcycles, what made you decide to travel this way? (Yes, I know…because it’s awesome!)
Neda: Travelling by bike engages the senses and makes you much more approachable to locals than travelling in a car. I love being able to sense the change in temperature when we climb to higher elevations, smell the scent of freshly cut grass or feel the exhilaration of leaning into a curve.
Travelling by motorcycle is an adventure in itself. Our bikes are important members of the family, not just vehicles that get us from point to point.
Gene: Real reason we’re traveling by bike: not enough air miles…
What has been the best part about leaving your typical 9-5 lifestyle behind?
Gene: Not having to sit in rush hour traffic in Toronto.
Neda: The freedom to live our lives on our terms. It wasn’t until we left on this trip that I realized just how much of my daily life was influenced and controlled by work and routine. Work was always on my mind; especially at the very end, when the job became more demanding and stressful.
Being on the road full-time has changed my outlook on life completely. More than ever, I find myself living in the present moment, instead of always making detailed plans 3-6 months in advance. Having a career, which was extremely important to me, is now much less important than just having a quality of life. I used to feel guilty when my day wasn’t packed with meaningful activities, work or leisure-related. Even my workouts were a calendar item – just another task to check off the to-do list. By leaving our 9-5 jobs, we challenged ourselves to forgo the compensations of work to pursue a simpler lifestyle; one that is guilt-free.
Atigun Pass, north of the Arctic Circle, Alaska
What has been the worst part about it? (although I can’t imagine there being a downside!)
Gene: Sitting in rush hour traffic in Guatemala City, which was not as bad as sitting in traffic in Mexico City. Which was way better than sitting in traffic in Bogota? Um… why are we doing this trip again?!?
Seriously, missing our friends and family is the hardest part.
Neda: There’s definitely a downside to everything… Travel fatigue set in about 8-9 months into our trip. We felt saturated with all the sight-seeing and having to move ourselves and all of our belongings from place to place almost daily. As a result, we decided to stay put for a month to rest up and renew our zest for travel again. It was a much-needed and very rewarding break.
However, these days we’re finding ourselves getting fatigued a lot quicker now and more often, craving serious downtime in a rented apartment or a private room in a hostel somewhere. In the last five months, we’ve spent two months “recharging our batteries” in Colombia, and our pace of travel has slowed right down. We still very much enjoy our journey, but our wandering ways have morphed into a slow migration south; but we love it that way!
Gene: You could say, we “trickle-charged our batteries”?
Neda: You’re stupid.
Do you see yourself ever going back to that typical 9-5 lifestyle?
Neda: No. My values and expectations of work have fundamentally changed. If and when I go back to work, it will have to fit into my life, not the other way around.
Gene: Depends. How much are they paying…? 😉
Is RTW travel what you expected? Explain.
Neda: It’s more than I expected. The only benchmark I had were our previous motorcycle vacations, and so I was expecting much of the same: packed days of riding, tons of sight-seeing and very little rest. However, we found ourselves embracing the freedom and time we had to make RTW travel a lifestyle instead of yet another (albeit longer) vacation.
Gene: RTW is way better. Riding in North America is mainly about geography. RTW has been all about food, culture, food, architecture, history, people, food, language…
Speaking of language, we’ve noticed in your blog that you make reference to Neda being the better Spanish speaker. Is there any advice for upcoming travelers about picking up a new language as quickly as Neda has?
Neda: Learning a new language for mono-lingual adults can be pretty tough. What helped me pick up Spanish was my knowledge of Italian, and my previous experience with learning English as a second language in Canada. Here are some of the techniques that helped me:
- Taking language classes at the beginning of the trip helps to build a foundation. I used a computer program called Rosetta Stone, which is a good start
- Try and guess the overall meaning of the sentence even if you don’t understand every single word. Most everyday conversations can be somewhat predictable, so a basic travel vocabulary helps a lot as the same words are repeated over and over again
- Ask the locals to speak “mas despacio” (slower) and don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat what they said
- The important thing is to practice communicating… don’t be afraid to make mistakes or mispronounce words
- At restaurants, ask for the Spanish menu, it will help you learn the vocabulary much faster
- Download some Spanish music to play during your ride. After a few listens, you’ll start recognizing the most frequently-used words
- Download and use the SpanishDict app as often as you can. I bring my cell phone with me to the grocery store, customs office…everywhere, and check the new words as I go along. Sometimes, you can get your point across just by using key words
- Turn on the TV and find a movie you’ve seen before that’s dubbed in Spanish. You’ll know what’s going on, even if you don’t understand everything.
- Reading comprehension comes last (at least for me), so start small with reading children’s books or comics, where the pictures tell a part of the story.
Gene: My advice for learning Spanish is: “Don’t travel with Neda.” 🙂
I’m actually being a little bit serious. When you travel with someone that speaks the local language far better than you do, you’re not forced to fend for your own. You end up depending on the other person like a crutch and your own skills atrophy like a leg in a cast that never gets used and then when you crack open that cast, your skin is all pasty white, and your calf muscle is so grossly shrunken that when you look at it, all you want to say is, “¡Dios mío!”.
But you can’t. Because your Spanish sucks… 🙁
P.S. Totally travel with Neda. She gives awesome Spanish lessons over Bluetooth while on the road!
What has been your favorite place so far?
Neda: There’s been no “one” favorite place for me. Just being on the road and broadening my horizons has been the best experience overall.
Gene: At the end of the riding day, my favorite place is Bed.
That’s a very hard question to answer. There’ve been so many highlights: maybe the grandeur of snow-covered Atigun Pass in Arctic Alaska, or the otherworldly colours and patterns of The Wave in Arizona, or maybe the friendliness and love of life of the Mexican people, or watching the sun paint the clouds different colours as it sinks beneath the Caribbean Sea while standing on the deck of a pirate ship.
No, it’s definitely Bed.
What is the biggest difference you’ve noticed between North America (Canada & U.S) and Central/South America?
Neda: The language, and how family-oriented everyone is here.
However the service industry is still very much in its development phase in Latin America. You shouldn’t expect the same levels of efficiency and customer-service in LA as we get in NA from government officials, sales people, or even bus drivers. The attitude is that you’re there because you need something from them, so there might be a lot of waiting or running around making photocopies at borders, etc.
Gene: Etiquette. People are very polite in Latin America. Everyone greets each other with a Buenos Dias, even strangers. And when they walk into restaurants, they’ll always greet people sitting down with a Buen Provecho (Bon Appetit).
Oh yeah, there’s also this dog that’s followed us from Mexico all the way to South America. He keeps us up every night with his barking. What is up with that?!?
Tofino, British Columbia
*Footnote: For those who don’t speak motorcycle, Gene is playfully referencing a very famous motorcycle documentary in which a famous actor travels ’round…and you could say he took the long way.
Thank you RideDOT.com for answering some of our questions, but most importantly, thank you for showing us that it really is possible to follow your own path in life!
Interested in following along on their ride of a lifetime? Like RideDOT.com on Facebook.